Treasury designations target al Qaeda’s international fundraising and facilitation network

The Treasury Department added 11 individuals and one organization to its list of specially designated global terrorists yesterday.

Six of the newly-designated jihadists were targeted because of their financial support for al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Al Nusrah Front, and al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Both AQAP and Al Nusrah are official branches of al Qaeda that are openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri. AQI was a branch of al Qaeda, but has split into two separate organizations, Al Nusrah and the Islamic State. The latter has been disowned by al Qaeda’s general command. (Two Islamic State leaders were also listed in the designation.)

The details in the Treasury Department’s designations show how the six al Qaeda financiers and facilitators operate as part of an international network. The countries listed in the short backgrounds for the six include: Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen. At least one of them has also traveled to Southeast Asia as part of his al Qaeda job.

Two of the six are based in Kuwait. Another operates from Turkey. And two others have worked with a major al Qaeda financier based in Qatar.

One of the al Qaeda facilitators has, in the past, transferred funds to a key leader in al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan group,” which US officials recently revealed has been plotting attacks in the West. The US launched airstrikes against the group’s facilities in Syria earlier this week.

The biographies published by Treasury demonstrate how these actors support multiple parts of al Qaeda’s global organization, including the group’s senior leadership in South Asia and al Qaeda’s regional branches, as well as other groups such as the Taliban.

Six al Qaeda financiers and facilitators

The biographies for the six al Qaeda operatives provided by Treasury are summarized below.

‘Abd al Aziz Aday Zimin al Fadhil is described as a “Kuwait-based facilitator who provides financial services” for the Al Nusrah Front and also “facilitates travel for individuals seeking to join the terrorist organization.” Al Nusrah is not the only part of al Qaeda he supports, according to Treasury, as he transfers funds to Yemen “in support of AQAP.”

Ashraf Muhammad Yusuf ‘Uthman ‘Abd al Salam began working for the al Qaeda network nearly a decade ago, Treasury says. He worked for AQI in 2005 and, in 2007, “opened stores to facilitate the communications of AQI officials.” Later that same year ‘Abd al Salam “facilitated the transfer of thousands of dollars to support AQI operations.”

By 2012, ‘Abd al Salam was working with the Al Nusrah Front, transferring funds to the group and facilitating the “travel of associates” who wanted to join Al Nusrah in Syria. ‘And al Salam has worked with an “Iraqi explosives expert” in Al Nusrah to use “explosives in acts of terrorism.” ‘Abd al Salam joined Al Nusrah as a fighter in early 2014.

Like other jihadists on Treasury’s list, ‘Abd al Salam has supported multiple parts of the al Qaeda network. In mid-2012, he helped “facilitate the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars” to al Qaeda in Pakistan. In doing so, Treasury says, he worked with another facilitator, Khalifa Muhammad Turki al Subaiy, who is based in Qatar and was designated in 2008.

‘Abd al Malik Muhammad Yusuf ‘Uthman ‘Abd al Salam (a.k.a. Umar al Qatari)

Umar al Qatari is a Jordanian whose support for Al Nusrah “has been broad.” He provides “financial, material, and technological support” for both Al Nusrah and al Qaeda, according to Treasury.

Al Qatari has been tied to Muhsin al Fadhli, one of the key leaders in al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan group” in Syria. Al Qatari has “worked with Iran-based al Qaeda facilitators to deliver receipts confirming that al Qaeda received foreign donor funding.” And, in late 2011, “he delivered thousands of dollars to” al Fadhli in Iran. Al Fadhli relocated to Syria, where he has been responsible for plotting against the West, in 2013.

Since 2011, al Qatari’s activities have spanned the globe.

He “participated in an attack against US forces in Afghanistan” in 2011, according to Treasury. As of early 2012, he “was responsible for providing recruitment and logistical support for al Qaeda members in the Middle East and traveled to the Gulf, the Levant, Iran, South Asia and Southeast Asia for his work with al Qaeda.”

Also in 2012, al Qatari attended an al Qaeda training camp in Waziristan and was “directly involved in supporting and participating in operational activities for al Qaeda.”

Not only has al Qatari provided funding to Al Nusrah, he has also facilitated the travel of extremists going to fight alongside Al Nusrah in Syria and “specifically worked with Turkey-based Syrians who opposed the Syrian regime in an effort to recruit them to work with” the group.

Working with “associates” in Lebanon, al Qatari and Ibrahim al Bakr (described below) “agreed to procure and transport weapons and other equipment to Syria with the assistance of a Syria-based al Qaeda associate.”

He has raised funds for al Qaeda over the Internet and coordinated with “al Qaeda financier” Khalifa Muhammad Turki al Subaiy to transfer “tens of thousands of euros” to al Qaeda and its “senior leaders.” ‘Abd al Salam, whose role is described above, has worked with al Subaiy as well.

Al Qatari was arrested by Lebanese authorities in Beirut in May 2012. He was attempting “to depart for Qatar” at the time and “was carrying thousands of dollars intended for al Qaeda.” Even from behind bars, al Qatari “remained a communications conduit between detainees in Lebanon and [Al Nusrah] fighters located in Syria and Lebanon.”

He is so important to Al Nusrah that, as of early 2013, the group was attempting to orchestrate his release from a Lebanese prison. It is not clear from Treasury’s designation if al Qatari is currently free, or still imprisoned. Al Nusrah has been attempting to broker an exchange in which the al Qaeda group’s Lebanese hostages would be exchanged for al Qaeda members in Lebanon’s custody.

Fatih Hasar (a.k.a. Ubayd al Turki)

Hasar is a facilitator based in Turkey, Treasury says, and from there he “provides financial and other services to or in support of al Qaeda.” He has transferred funds to jihadists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, including “hundreds of thousands of dollars to al Qaeda members.” He has provided “financial services” to Al Nusrah and facilitates the travel of al Qaeda members, including those connected to Al Nusrah.

Hamad Awad Dahi Sarhan al Shammari

Treasury says Al Shammari is a “Kuwait-based facilitator who provides financial services to or in support of al Qaeda by transferring money to support extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He has coordinated the transfer of funds for both al Qaeda and Al Nusrah, and has also facilitated travel for both.

Ibrahim ‘Isa Hajji Muhammad al Bakr

Al Bakr was arrested in Qatar in “the early 2000s for his involvement in a jihadist network,” according to Treasury. Al Bakr was released and “promised not to conduct terrorist activity in Qatar,” but by 2006 he was part of “a terrorist cell that was plotting to attack US military bases and personnel in Qatar.”

Al Bakr has collected funds for both al Qaeda and the Taliban. “In this capacity, he served as a link between Gulf-based al Qaeda financiers and Afghanistan.”

Treasury adds that, as of late 2012, al Bakr had traveled to Waziristan, Pakistan “for his work with al Qaeda.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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